Los Angeles Podcast Festival 2016 – Saturday Review

Aside from appearing as a guest on a number of podcasts, I have no interaction with them, which made me either the ideal candidate or the worst to attend the fifth annual Los Angeles Podcast Festival held at the Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills.

Unfortunately, the festival’s website only offered images of the podcasts in attendance, so for a novice like myself, I had to search the Internet to learn about the podcasts. I started with Cashing In With T.J. Miller since I knew and enjoyed much of what I have seen by the actor/comedian. Hosted by Cash Levy, the two men seemed to riff on the fly about different topics. They were funny and not afraid of going dark, but after 30 minutes, a third of the way through the programming block, I ventured out to see what else was playing.

I walked into Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend and she was reading from her diary from either her early college or late high school days, presenting her younger self’s rambling thoughts about what was going on then. Some of the other folks reacted to what she was saying, but I wasn’t invested so it felt like I was overhearing a conversation I wasn’t really interested in, so Rosen and I will need to spend more time together before we become besties.

I entered improv4Humans with Mat Besser as an audio clip of a Trump supporter was being played. The four other humans with Besser started a sketch about a father (and Trump supporter) wanting to build a wall around his daughter to protect her from the show’s intern. They were amusing and were nice enough to point out for those streaming the show when there were physical gestures taking place.

The Conspiracy Theory of Everything was joined by actor Adam Pally, who dominated the opening proceedings. Today’s topic was HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), a military program that explored the use of the planet’s ionosphere, which some claim was intended for weather control. I couldn’t follow the conversation so gave up after 20 minutes not feeling like I had learned anything new.

Bizarre States sounded like it had potential dealing with the weirdness around us, but when I walked in, one of the hosts was going on about his fascination with a recent TV special covering the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey, which occurred 20 years ago. As admittedly fascinating as it is, I didn’t feel like hearing it all rehashed after having lived through it. I tried to get into the TOFOP panel, but the room was packed.

Comedy Film Nerds was joined by Welcome to Night Vale narrator Cecil Baldwin and actor Wil Wheaton. Because of Wheaton’s past role of Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the discussion began with Star Trek: Beyond, which he found to be the worst of the new series because of how generic it was. While I understand not liking Beyond, I was surprised he found it to be the worst considering how poorly written Into Darkness was. The panelists then screened and reacted to trailers.

They were disinterested in Shin Godzilla, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and Boo! A Medea Halloween. Passengers had them all intrigued, but they felt that too much was given away in the trailer (which I had agreed with until having seen the film, and now know that assessment is inaccurate). Collateral Beauty split the panel between those cynical to its apparent sappiness and those who enjoy a good tear-jerker. Kidnap starring Halle Berry looked liked Taken if it featured a mom in a minivan and was so ridiculous it may well be so bad it’s good.

They closed with Rogue One, and of course, loved it and were ready to buy their ticket and a few toys. The absolute funniest thing to happen the entire day occurred during this panel. While raving with excitement, they talked about the story that would be told. Apparently, they got some trivia about the Death Star in this film wrong, which caused a couple of fellas to yell out with corrections. When the erroneous information was repeated, a fella a few rows in front of me quietly shook his head in disappointment and turned to the woman he was with, but she could provide no solace.

From 5pm to 7pm, the festival took over the bar on the first floor where there were free, delicious appetizers. Some of the podcasters mingled with attendees, a nice change of pace from the usual surcharge for meet-and-greets that are becoming common with celebrities and musicians.

The 40-Year-Old Boy is hosted by Mike Schmidt and produced by Lili VonSchtupp, named after Madeline Kahn’s character in Blazing Saddles, though I didn’t notice that referenced. This was a special episode of the show as Schmidt doesn’t typically have guests and here he had two: Voiceover actors/musicians Jess Harnell and Mickey Caputo. Harnell dominated the proceedings with his entertaining stories and gregarious personality. It was fun hearing his behind-the-scenes stories as both an actor and musician. Harnell and Caputo have a band called Rock Sugar, and they played an exclusive mash-up of the Scorpions and Adele that drove the crowd wild.

Unfortunately, the guests were such a big part of the show, I am curious what a regular episode is like. Schmidt came off quick witted, so I am sure he is entertaining. Von Shtupp played a ditzy sexpot and contributed little else. Don’t get me wrong. Women interested in and eager about sex are great, but that’s all she offered to the conversation.

The true-crime podcast My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark seemed incorrectly titled as the ladies and their guest, The Dollop co-host Dave Anthony, told stories about people who killed multiple times. Anthony started with the tale of David Carpenter, the Trailside Killer. As bad as that was, and Carpenter was evil, Kilgariff told an even worse story about the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. Australian murderer Mark Erinn Rust that Hardstark discussed seemed lighthearted in comparison. The details were very gruesome but the trio were able to find humor to break the tension.

The night concluded with a stand-up block as podcast hosts, most of whom hadn’t had a panel this day, took the stage for short, funny sets.

While not being a fan or even aware of these shows before today, it was interesting to witness the podcasts being performed live. I was surprised there wasn’t more of an interactive component where audience members got to ask the hosts questions, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining. Everyone seemed content just to witness what was taking place. I would definitely recommend fans attend next year’s festival.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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